Mac vs. PC – Let The Flame Wars Begin

Mac is not better than PC. It’s just different. If you think otherwise you really need to check your sources.

I’ve tried to stay out of the moronic Mac vs. PC debackle as much as I can but a conversation I overheard yesterday finally pushed me over the edge so now I’m not keeping my mouth shut any more:

Here are some facts:

  • Macs are far less stable and secure and far more buggy and prone to crashes than people are willing to admit
  • Windows Vista doesn’t really have any compatibility problems
  • Mac is not the industry standard for video editing
  • There is no discernible difference in workload, efficiency or quality of the end result whether you are on a Mac or a PC
  • The days when Mac was the only platform you should use for digital imaging etc are long gone (as in early 1990’s long gone)
  • The fact that you own an Apple product (iPod, iPhone, iMac, iRack whatever) does not make you cooler, smarter, better or more skilled than anyone else

If you’re a Mac user you are probably running frantically around the house whiping away the foam collecting around your mouth while you look for your Anti-PC-User Emergency Kit. If so just calm down and take a deep breath: I don’t have anything against you nor your choice of operating system – I just don’t like being looked down on or ridiculed by your kind because of my preference, especially when the arguments they present as reasons for using Mac instead of PC are nothing but advertising propaganda from Mr. Jobs and his staff.

What started it all

Anyways, back to my story: We just picked up a large video editing contract which includes working with a large variety of content providers (videographers) and consolidating all their differing content into a cohesive show. Unfortunately the content providers are amateurs who don’t know too much about video editing and especially industry standards when it comes to output. As a result we got a myriad of different formats and compressions that we needed to work with.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but because almost all of these videographers work on Final Cut Pro or iMovie and none of them know anything about export or compression other than how to publish videos to YouTube it quickly became a nightmare. You see when you use the click and “it just works” approach promoted by Apple, you get a video format that only works on Macs. This is because it’s quicker to export Mac native formats than to convert the video to an industry standard format like DV/DVCPRO. Unfortunately the videographers are under the impression that Mac is the de facto industry standard and therefore that if the file doesn’t play it is because we are stupid PC users. This couldn’t be farther from the truth:

The industry standard is AVID.

When we tried to explain this issue to the people we are working with we got the following mind-numbing and infuriating response (from a Mac user of course):

The reason it doesn’t work is because you are on a Vista PC. Microsoft doesn’t follow standards and doesn’t work. Switch to a Mac!

Right. I don’t even know where to start with this. First of all, the problem is caused by the videos being encoded using a proprietary Mac codec that is about as non-standard as you can get. In fact the codec only works in Final Cut Pro, nowhere else. And like I said, FCP is not the industry standard. Seccondly Microsoft doesn’t actually make pro video editing software: We use Adobe Premiere CS3. So if there was a problem with the software it would be Adobe’s fault, not Microsoft. Thirdly switching to Mac to solve the problem is about as good advice as telling someone whose tire you just slashed to buy a new car.

Don’t believe everything you hear

At the root of all this bullshit is the ingenious if misleading advertising campaign Apple has been running for the last 15 years claiming that their software “just works” and is far supperior to any other platform. If you go back about two decades, Mac ruled the design world because of it’s supperior graphics handling capabilities. But those days are long gone and today Mac and PC compete on an even playing field in this respect. Case in point: The industry standard for design software is the Adobe Creative Suite which runs identically on both platforms.

Today there are only two real differences between a Mac and every other computer on the planet:

  1. It uses Mac OS
  2. It contains a chip whose sole purpose it is to tell the Mac OS that this is a genuine Mac

In fact Mac OS works fine on any computer as long as you trick it to not look for that chip. But while Microsoft is a software company, Apple is a hardware company and they need to have some way of forcing their customers to buy their hardware so they tie their operating system to their hardware using that chip. That’s why you can run Windows on a Mac but not vice versa. In the real world this would be called monopolization and unfair business practice but for some unknown reason noone has really spoken up about this and tested it in court.

“It just works*”

The Mac slogan “it just works” should come with an asterix:

By “works” we mean that as long as your system is operational it is unlikely to crash. However if it does crash you are likely to loose 100% of your data and the lost data is unrecoverable. Also, we may choose to change our operating system or platform at any time in which case you need to buy all new hardware and software if you want to continue being part of our exclusive club.

Case in point: My friend Anthony has a G4 Mac that he used for video editing. One day his system stopped working. Further investigation showed it was no longer working becuase the logic board was dead. So he took it to the Mac store and asked them to fix it. The guy at the store looked at the computer and told him they no longer support the chipset (Mac had just switched to the new Intel chips) so he would have to switch out the whole logic board to the new chipset. The cost? $2000 (more than the cost of a new Mac). After much back and forth Anthony ended up buying a new iMac instead. But when he got home a new nasty surprise was in store: None of his expensive software worked in his new iMac. A quick call to the store uncovered the unbelieveable answer: With the new chipset comes a whole new operating system that is not compatible with the old software. So he had to go out and buy new versions of his old software just to be able to open his old files.

Now imagine if Microsoft had pulled this kind of crap on their clients.

Vista Sucks

Since it’s release more than 2 yars ago Windows Vista has gotten an incredible ammount of flack from everyone from the tech press to pundits to my grandfather’s best man twice removed. Surprisingly about 99% of this flack is unwarranted nonsense generated by idiots who have never tried the operating system or don’t understand how computers work.

One of the main attacks on Vista is that it isn’t compatible with hardware. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles about how nothing works, how the drivers are full of bugs and that people are downgrading to XP. Well here’s some food for thought:

If the driver doesn’t work it is because the company that made the driver didn’t do a good enough job. And the drivers are made by the hardware manufacturer, not Microsoft!

So when people say their hardware doesn’t work and the drivers are crap and point their fingers at Microsoft they are blaming the wrong company. To put it in perspective think about this: If you bought a headset for your iPhone that said “iPhone Compatible” but didn’t work, who would you blame? The headphone manufacturer of course. It’s the same with driver incompatibility.

People have just gotten too used to blaming Microsoft for everything except Global Warming.

PCs crash all the time

More than anything what kills me is when people tell me that PCs crash all the time. Let me tell you something: I have 6 PCs running everything from Windows ME to Windows Vista Ultimate. In the last 6 years all my PCs combined have crashed maybe 10 times and in almost every case it was either due to hardware failure (mostly dead hard drives) or ill advised experiments at rewriting the registry or bios (aka. me being an idiot). With properly installed hardware and software the Windows platform is incredibly stable. And when something goes wrong it’s easy to find out why and how to fix it.

In answer to this ground breaking CNN worthy news I can hear all my Mac friends yelling “but you’ll get infected by viruses!”. I haven’t had a virus in 10 years. Why? Because I have a $20 router between my home network and the outside world and I don’t download dubious files from the net or my inbox. So here’s my response: I can kill your Mac in 30 seconds flat! And if I do, all your data is unrecoverable. You can’t do that to a PC without a huge magnet or a sledge hammer.

Your choice of Operating System should never define you

What never seizes to amaze me is the willingness of Mac users to let their choice of operating system define them. They seem to think that because they are using a Mac they are somehow better and different from the rest of the computer using world. Which is strange seeing as Mac is the most uniform computer brand out there: You have zero choice when it comes to customizability or identity – everything looks the same. And if you use any of the famed iLife programs the results invariably have that Mac cookie-cutter look. The grim reality is that in the end it is your creativity that matters, not what computer or operating system you use. You can make stunning artwork with a PC form 1993 and total crap with the most high-end Mac available – it’s all up to you.

So here’s the conclusion (forward all hate mail to my summer house at 1 Pennsylvania Avenue):

Macs are great if you don’t want to spend time learning how a computer work or if you want to live a cookie cutter lifestyle. If you want creative input you need to upgrade to 3rd party software such as Adobe’s Creative Suite in which case you can get a far better PC for the same price.

And before you start barfing up that ever popular “Final Cut Pro is vastly supperior to Premiere Pro” crap consider this: The reason Adobe is re-releasing Premiere Pro for Mac is because Mac users are asking for it. And Premiere Pro was designed by the same people that created FCP.

In the end I don’t care what you use. All that matters is what you produce. But don’t tell me you are better than me because you spent more money on your computer. The only thing you show with such a statement is your narrowminded inability to think critically. Sorry, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Flame on!

15 thoughts on “Mac vs. PC – Let The Flame Wars Begin

  1. Mac SUCKS and Microsoft can’t make software or hardware(xbox360) that works! although if i HAD to use either of them it would be microsofts evil OS, but thankfully i discovered Linux and ohhh how great the speed/stability/free software and everything else that comes along with it, and if this turns into “cant run this, can’t run that on linux”
    haha wine or cedega usually do the trick.
    well anyways, PEACE.

  2. Unfortunately in my line of work I have to use one of the standard platforms: WINE just doesn’t cut it when you work with audio and video editing. Even so Linux is making incredible strides and I can see a time in the not so distant future when main stream software manufacturers like Adobe start selling their applications with Linux compatibility as well. If that happened there would finally be true competition.

  3. Very well worded! I’ve faced the same battle on a semi-regular basis and you’ve hit the nail on the head, especially in regards to Vista and compatiblity, it’s the VENDORS that need to make stable drivers… but, this is a Microsoft Bashing World we live in and the Mac user is breed on their own. Mac’s were definintely the choice, but as you’ve very plainly stated.. that was then, this is now…. Sorry Mac heads.. get with the times. While MS/Vista/XP have their flaws, so do Mac’s, nothings perfect.

    Keep up the great work Morten… you deserve full props for this one!

  4. Although there is more than a grain of truth in some of this- the majority of your comparison between Mac and PC is completely wrong- total crap. I do graphic design and video editing and run many Macs and PCs and have done for 5 years+- I have never had a single virus on a Mac, never needed anti virus, never had an error message. Sorry to disappoint you Microsoft fan boy but most of the time Macs do work- have more processing power available and I have found them to be significantly more stable. Vista is a disaster, is unreliable- uses too much power- is dreadfully buggy and businesses just do not have the time to waste fixing never ending compatibility problems. Macs are not infallible – but the operating system is quicker and more stable in everything it does- The software is a different story altogether and you make some valid points.

  5. @ Goonergerry:
    I love it when people call me “Microsoft Fanboy” – nothing could be further from the truth. I’m Linux all the way but have been forced into the world of MS because software vendors in general don’t make software for my preferred platform.

    In spite of what you may believe, my comparisons that you so respectuflly refer to as “total crap” are in fact entirely based on experience and 100% accurate. To this date the only problems we have with our multiple PCs has been hardware related (as in busted SATA cables, fried processors etc). The only real issue we had with Vista was that Adobe in their infinite wisdom refused to publish updates for Premiere Pro CS2 for Vista which can hardly be blamed on Microsoft.

    As for viruses, there are really only two ways of getting them these days: 1. connect your computer directly to the web without a go-between like a router or 2. download and install the virus yourself (i.e. open an executable file from an email etc). The first one can be fixed by spending $15 on a router (that goes for Mac users too) and the seccond one… well, if you’re indiscriminately opening executables from unknown sources you really need a refresher on the issue of information safety.

    My point which you seem to have missed is that Mac users tend to have a dogmatic and religious view of their chosen platform and often see themselves as supperior to the rest of us simply because of that. Which would have been OK if there was any truth to their claims. But in reality the difference between Mac and PC is dismal at best. The rest is just advertising hype.

  6. I looked up mac vs. pc on google, trying to find something impartial, and after 2 pages this was the first thing I found. I have always thought of mac users as “The sheltered rich kid”, their Parents “Apple” feed them bullshit about the real world, and they live happily on it, while also spending a fortune on computers. Not to mention they aren’t allowed to chose which programs they use for themselves.

    I know this is a very PC sided statement, but I swear you can only make fun of new OS bugs that are fixed for vista and poor installation that doesn’t happen if you read the damned text. Apple is beating a dead horse on the vista front.

    But I have to say, the time machine commercial made me laugh, I seriously wonder if they even have a PC in the damned building, system restore ftw?

    1. This was an excellent article that made some very good points. In fact, I myself am a PC user. But Sebeh, this was NOT an impartial article at all. The author very clearly sided with PCs so I don’t know what article you’re talking about.

      I’m STILL on my quest for an impartial article on Mac vs PC. Wish me luck…

  7. I have never had a single virus on a Mac, never needed anti virus

    Don’t you think most viruses are written for Windows users?

  8. You know – i’ve been a devout mac user for the past 10 years… but I’m going to a pc. Reason being, macs are still so bloody expensive (plus gaming is non-existant). My current job I’ve been using XP at work, and its never crashed since once (i’m using most of the cs2 creative suite open all the time)…

    I can get a kick ass rig for 1200 – but have to pay 2100 (cdn) for a mid-range Imac? Screw that…

  9. What I don’t understand is that Mac, at least nowadays, doesn’t use their own hardware for most parts..they use, Intel chips, Nvidia graphics and indigenous RAMs…

    So if it boils down to the OS, then the difference lies finally on two items: 1.usage and 2. taste.

    1. In terms of usage, for any traditional and even video-editing work Mac is yet to rule its roost as the definitive machine. Still, Logic pro (though stupidly expensive) is a better audio-editing software than many…That however, points to the software being good, not that the OS is better..
    2. The Macs ‘look’ cooler, way cooler than many pcs..that however shouldn’t be the defninig criteria to buy them…if only, a lot of people would understand that….but then, many luxury brands would be out of business..

    I never had any problems with Vista..apart from the one time when my friend couldnt log in to the system for some reason…it was bizzare…

    In terms of bugs…its pretty true that it depends on what you open and download…Also, the fact that all virues are written with PCs in mind cant hold true for long…Macs will feel the pressure…

    I would say to have both (if you can afford) would be the best thing…:D

  10. As a long-time Mac user I now sit at a desk with an intel iMac and an IBM Thinkpad to get my job done. As a web developer I do my cutups and comps on the Mac and .NET programming on the PC. This is my first time using Windows in around ten years so it’s a learning curve, but Windows admittedly has come a long way in the past decade. Now, onto your post as you have my back-story.

    I have experienced a lot more freezing with the PC than than I have with the Mac, as far as stability in my situation the Mac wins (and no, I’m not saying that all Mac’s win that battle). Security is a big one to me, in all my years of being a Mac user I’ve yet to get a single virus while my PC friends have gotten some pretty hefty ones here and there that made them reinstall their OS. With the Intel Mac’s you can certainly use Windows if you want, even for gaming as that’s not really a well tapped market for Mac software developers. However I am a firm believer in using dedicated hardware for everything, consoles for games and computers for work.

    Final summation, flame if you want but I’m just covering my personal experiences and not speaking for the Apple Fanboys out there.

  11. Excellent points Jack. When I wrote this post I was worried I’d get a lot of flaming, but I’m pleased to see that people are a little more measured in their responses.

    My main beef is with how the platforms are perceived more than how they work. I’ve had it up to here (hand all the way up to the ceiling) with people who tell me that “if you’re not using a Mac, you are not a professional” and the likes. That to me is a religious statement and not one of fact.

    Interestingly my apprentice uses a humongous macbook with VMWare to run Microsoft Expression Web for web design. It seems to be working quite well although the VMWare engine is far from perfect and she is suffering from some major glitching issues from time to time.

    In the end it should come down to personal preference and not rediculous lies and nonsense marketing. If people chose platforms solely based on what they are going to use them for, I wouldn’t have anything to say. I just get pissed when people start thinking that platform apartheid is acceptible.

  12. Mac’s are designer products (hence the price) therefore a large group of mac users are more likely to be arrogant and strongly opinionated.

    Personaly I like both is and don’t take sides in these issues.

  13. Sry i know I’m a little to late but i went from PC to Mac last year and honestly i will never ever go back. End.

    That is my Story. Nothing to flame here… Sry.

  14. Um, just one comment about the video people who “inspired” this article. Anyone worth their salt should be able to export video from FCP in a format that other software can read. So the problem wasn’t so much that they were Mac users but more that they were just idiots.

    Hell, if they even had a copy of quicktime Pro they could convert it into dozens of formats.Ten years ago iMovie was a great program for simple video editing and five years ago Final Cut Express was great for intermediate-level video editing. And ten years ago Adobe Premiere really sucked. Now iMovie is an unusable abomination and the latest version of FCP seems to be heading the same way. And now Premiere apparently doesn’t suck. Swings and roundabouts…

    My point was meant to be this is just a case of PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair) – you get idiots on both PCs and Macs – so don’t make the mistake of blaming the users shortcomings on their choice of computer…

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